There's plenty of chat about consumerism today, isn't there?
I have just finished Duncan MacLaren's Mission Implausible (Paternoster, 2004) and towards the end he identifies various characteristics of a society driven by consumption:
(a) The primacy of individual choice
(the path to personal freedom - a long, long way from obligation, duty or loyalty)
(b) The expectation of novelty
(as the consumer's desires are insatiable, new products are always needed - always innovating; boredom is unacceptable)
(c) A belief in a natural right to abundance
(the consumer can, and does, buy anything they want to keep life full and exciting)
(d) The acceptance of obsolescence
(there is a shelf-life for products, they have a built-in 'use-by date')
(e) The duty to be happy
(pleasure is what the anticipation and act of consumption is all about)
(f) The construction of an identity through consumption, rather than consuming stuff for their usefulness
(the 'label' culture within the clothing industry, for example)
(g) The framing of consumption/shopping as a leisure activity
(as it is in leisure that freedom is found and expressed)
(h) All this is an illusion! Consumers are victims of aggressive, but tacit, forms of social control.
Two reflections come to mind...
(i) Yes, MacLaren does go on to give us a peek at what consumer religion looks like by seeing each of these in church life today. But I am more interested in what you think. How do these features reveal themselves in the way we 'do church', for example? Is this good? bad?
(ii) The Consumer World follows the Producer World, just as the shopping mall has followed the factory as the architectural icon of society (NB - before the factory there was the ... cathedral!). Is it harder to be a Jesus-follower in a Consumer World or a Producer World?
Gee - this is starting to sound like an assignment. Sorry! But seriously, I think a lot about these issues and am really interested in what you think.
By the way - the book is just 200 pages. Absorbing and provocative. I recommend it!